Tuesday, October 23, 2007

outsourcing torture

There is a wild, even by this administration’s standards, story of corruption, cruelty, and incompetence over at Psychsound:

The long and the short of it was that an Egpytian national, Abdallah Higazy, was staying in a hotel in New York City on September 11 and the hotel emptied out when the planes hit the towers. The hotel later found in the closet of his room a device that allows you to communicate with airline pilots. Investigators thought this guy had something to do with 9/11 so they questioned him. According to Higazi, the investigators coerced him into confessing to a role in 9/11. Higazi first adamantly denied any involvement with 9/11 and could not believe what was happening to him. Then, he says, the investigator said his family would go through hell in Egypt, where they torture people like Saddam Hussein. Higazy then realized he had a choice: he could continue denying the radio was his and his family suffers ungodly torture in Egypt or he confesses and his family is spared. Of course, by confessing, Higazy's life is worth garbage at that point, but ... well, that's why coerced confessions are outlawed in the United States.

So Higazy "confesses" and he's processed by the criminal justice system. His future is quite bleak. Meanwhile, an airline pilot later shows up at the hotel and asks for his radio back. This is like something out of the movies. The radio belonged to the pilot, not Higazy, and Higazy was free to go, the victim of horrible timing. Higazi was innocent! He next sued the hotel and the FBI agent for coercing his confession. The bottom line in the Court of Appeals: Higazy has a case and may recover damages for this injustice.

The Second Circuit released its decision explaining how the FBI agent forced a false confession out of Higazy: by threatening to turn his family in Egypt over to the Egyptian security forces to be tortured, raped, or killed. The decision was posted online. Then Steve Bergstein blogged about the decision, and shortly afterwards, it disappeared from the official site. The original pdf decision had already been reposted elsewhere, however, and the Second Circuit actually contacted the site owner and asked him to take it down. He refused. The court then released a redacted version of the decision omitting the section describing the FBI agent’s unlawful actions. That portion has now been classified—except it’s also still available online thanks to the diligence of these bloggers. Check out the whole story, and see how, in the name of national security, the U.S. government threatens to have innocent people tortured by dictatorial allies.

Via Jim Henley.

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